How to lose friends and alienate people…

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about friends and how my mental health has affected my friendships over the past 5 years. It may be an old adage, but the notion of going through a hard time and therefore finding out who your real friends are is a very true one. As anyone who has struggled with depression and anxiety will tell you – not everyone understands it and not everyone sees it as a real thing and this can have a real impact on your friends. Some will rally around you, have the patience of saints and just be there for you, some will shy away not really knowing how to treat you and some, will quite frankly, just be dicks.

My circle of friends has never been huge and definitely  curtailed in the last few years and whilst at the time it isn’t very pleasant and adds to the feelings of hopelessness, in hindsight it was a positive thing. It means I now only surround myself with people who ‘get it’ and people who aren’t going to make me feel guilty for not being up to going out or for cancelling plans at the last minute. Getting out of bed and showering can be hard enough some days, no-one needs the added pressure of having someone take offence and be bitchy when they can’t make it out for a drink.

When I think about my friends and the people that I thought were my friends, there’s always one instance that sticks in my mind. As with most memories I have it’s not a particularly happy one but it is an important one that proved pivotal.

As previously mentioned I had a stint of self harming when I was first prescribed antidepressants. In my mind it started out relatively innocuously, but soon spiralled into something more serious and my arms were in quite a mess. I tried disguising them and hiding them for a long time but the humid Manchester summer made that quite difficult. At the time I wasn’t really seeing many people, I would make excuses and just spend my time at work or locked in my bedroom. As time went on I plucked up the courage to tell some people; people that at the time, I trusted. Weeks went by and I didn’t really do anything, but a bank holiday came around and a friend suggested I go out with her for a few drinks as a friend of ours was DJing. I’m not sure how it came about but I must have felt a bit more confident as I got dressed up and went out; parts of my arms were on show but it somehow didn’t matter. I remember feeling excited, I had some cocktails and was looking forward to seeing people after weeks of being shut away. We went to my favourite bar and met up with some other friends and my friend who was DJing. I remember going over to speak to her, she already knew about everything that was going on so I felt comfortable, and then, she grabbed my scarred arm and said “god, you’re such an emo aren’t you?”.

Everything seemed to change after that one comment. It made me feel like a freak. And I think that was one of the last times I ever spoke to her. I’d sort of looked up to her before that; beautiful, successful and popular she seemed to have it all. She’d always been really kind and I thought she understood, but the expression on her face when she grabbed my arm is something I will never forget.

I don’t blame her for what she said, I’m sure many people said worse, it was more the disappointment and shame she made me feel. It was the disappointment that someone I thought was my friend didn’t see how much effort it had taken me to even be out of my bedroom that night. In fact I don’t really look back on my last year in Manchester very fondly. It was the hardest time for me and the most lonely of times and the fact that I only have one real friend (lovely Lou) to take from it all speaks volumes. When it came down to it, all those people that I thought were friends weren’t and I blame myself a bit for that as I went through a period of just wanting to be in with all the cool people and threw myself into social circles that I wasn’t necessarily comfortable in. But, I’m a firm believer in life being a learning curve and it made me realise that it’s far better to have a small group of fabulous friends that you can count on than lots of flimsy friends who never really give anything back.

If you have a friend going through a hard time and living with anxiety, depression or any sort of mental illness; be kind to them. Be patient and really think before you speak. You can say something in a fleeting second but the scars can still be there years later.

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Beauty and The Beast…

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As a chubby acne-prone teenager, the closest I got to beauty products was a bottle of Clearasil and a tea-tree stick. I was ridiculed for my frizzy hair, my bushy eyebrows and my fat arse or ‘lorry arse’ as I once heard my friend refer to it. I used to gaze at the pretty girls with their make-up and plucked eyebrows and long to be the same but never thought it possible. I felt ugly and fat and I didn’t see that ever changing. And to this day, I largely feel the same; there’s very little about myself that I wouldn’t want to change and I spend painstakingly long periods of time scrutinising every inch of my body and noting its flaws. Whilst my lack of confidence is a common characteristic in men and women, I do feel that my anxiety and depression has made it worse and magnified it somewhat with quite severe consequences at times.

Whilst I still don’t like the way I look or feel comfortable in my own skin, my new found love for beauty products has helped. And by that, I don’t mean they’ve physically made me look better but they have helped me psychologically. I know to many that will sound far fetched and self-absorbed but it’s true. When you’re feeling rock bottom and hopeless, dousing yourself in a favourite perfume or slapping on some lipstick can really lift you and make something impossible seem possible.

But of course there are the days when getting out of bed and heading to work is an unfathomable task. And whilst you feel that huge black cloud hanging over you, it doesn’t mean you necessarily lose all sense of pride. You still want to look presentable, you still want to look like you despite the fact inside you’re a quivering wreck. And that’s where quick, smart fixes come into play. The beauty products that involve no faffing or effort but supply optimum results and allow a certain degree of self-regard when all else is awry.

And with this is mind, I wanted to share a few of my go-to products. It’s quite difficult to find many blogs/articles on beauty and depression that give practical, affordable advice and whilst I’m not claiming to be a beauty expert; some of the products I have found joy in might do the same for you.

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The biggest revelation for me has been Liz Earle’s ‘Cleanse and Polish’. My mum has sworn by this for years and I always thought it wouldn’t suit my skin. But having tried it for the first time last year after my mammoth 15 mountain climb; I have used it every day since. Not only does it smell and feel divine but it’s both time-effective and cost-effective. It allows you to wipe every trace of the day away, and whilst that in itself is most therapeutic after a hard day, it leaves you with a wonderful glow, which is hard to come by when you’re taking regular medication and lacking in sunlight. My other preferred make-up remover is Bioderma’s Micelle Solution; I always keep it beside my bed, safe in the knowledge that if I’ve climbed into bed to escape the world, I have something quick and easy to hand to get rid of my warpaint.

As I have already mentioned, taking medication can take its toll on your skin as does stress and anxiety and it’s definitely something I’ve noticed over the last 4-5 years whilst taking antidepressants. As dry and lack-luster as it is, I do however find that Balance Me’s Radiance Face Oil instantly plumps it up and makes it feel alive. Again it smells divine and the act of rubbing it into my face really helps with feelings of zen. Embryolisse’s Lait‐Crème Concentré is also a stable that instantly makes me feel a bit more nourished and less like a leather handbag. Similarly any of Korres‘ body milks, but especially the Santorini Vine, can’t fail to have a positive impact on spirits. The glorious smell coupled with the instant absorption makes for a feeling of being cocooned in cotton wool.

Baths are my biggest indulgence; nothing quite beats sinking into one after a grueling day and quite often, my foot is only just over the flat threshold before I’m taking off my clothes ready to jump in. Whilst I’m not fussy in terms of what I have in it as long as it involves bubbles, one of my faves is Sainsbury’s Mandara Spa range, having taken the recommendation from beauty know-it-all Sali Hughes. And if like me you like to be liberal with your bubbles, its affordable price-tag helps.

Lipstick is probably my biggest weapon in the constant fight with my social anxiety and body confidence. It’s truly remarkable how much bravery a slick of red lipstick can muster. It gives me the confidence to do so many things and to not feel quite so bad in doing them. If I’m wearing it, it will be for a reason other than it looks nice! It will be because I feel fat and ugly, it will be because I was shaking with fear before leaving the house or maybe it might be because it makes me feel that bit more confident. And more often than not I will have chosen MAC’s ‘Lady Danger’ as I’m quite sure it’s not a lipstick but a secret power.

Last but by no means least, I have to mention Chanel No.5. For me this scent is everything. It was both my gran’s and still is my mum’s favourite perfume and holds a special place in my heart. The hint of it reminding me of my childhood playing with my gran’s cosmetics and dressing up in her jewellery; some of my fondest memories. And sometimes when your head is full of anxiety and your overthinking everything, being transported back to a simpler time is a godsend.

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